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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Police report will 'further alienate unionists'

Plans for radical reform of the police are up for debate

A delegation from the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) has met Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam to discuss the Patten Report on policing in the province.

The meeting was requested by party leader Gary McMichael, who believes changing the name of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and removing union flags from police stations is "too much for any unionist to swallow".

BBC NI's Barry Cowan talks to UDP leader Gary McMichael about his views on symbolic changes to the RUC
Speaking afterwards Mr McMichael said the government risked eroding unionist confidence in the peace process.

"If Mo Mowlam decides to implement some of the proposals which are in the Patten report, all she's going to do is further undermine confidence in the unionist community, which is already slipping," he said.

Earlier, the UDP leader, whose party has links with loyalist paramilitary groups the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), said he was very disappointed by the "politically motivated recommendation to change the name of the RUC".

[ image: Gary McMichael: Some changes are
Gary McMichael: Some changes are "too hard to swallow"
He added: "These reforms are not designed to enhance nationalist recruitment but are instead a pay-off for republican support for the peace process."

Mr McMichael's comments came after the author of the controversial report said he was encouraged by the response of RUC officers to its recommendations.

Speaking on BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme, Chris Patten said that the response of RUC officers should be contrasted with that of politicians.

"There is the understandable pain they feel about the suggestions on names and symbols," he said.

"They have also pointed out that a lot of recommendations are serious and constructive and they support them."

Sinn Fein position

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adam's also clarified his party's position on the report which was published on Thursday.

Republicans will "not accept anything less than an end to the RUC," Mr Adams said on Sunday, reiterating his party's long-held stance.

[ image: Gerry Adams: Policing a
Gerry Adams: Policing a "touchstone issue for nationalists"
As unionist anger continued to mount over the proposals which would give Sinn Fein a say on policing and replace the name, oath and emblem of the RUC, the West Belfast MP said the force "must become a thing of the past".

"It is our view - and we stated this to the Patten Commission - that the RUC is not a police service and that its history, make-up, ethos and relationship with the nationalist and republican people make it totally unacceptable.

"Nationalists and republicans need to be convinced that the Patten Report is indeed a `new beginning'.

"A repackaged RUC will not attract any measure of support. Change must therefore include both symbols and substance."

Mr Adams described the reform of policing in the province as a "touchstone issue" for nationalists and republicans and said Sinn Fein would continue to consult its members and other groups.

[ image: Ken Maginnis:
Ken Maginnis: "Report not based on reality"
He said Sinn Fein's executive would issue "a formal and definitive response" later but would be watching the Government's position closely "bearing in mind its failure so far to implement critical sections of the Good Friday Agreement".

Earlier, Ulster Unionist security spokesman Ken Maginnis continued his party's assault on the proposals.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP said: "It is not based on reality and when we talked about reviewing the police we wanted to see a police service where there was a greater opportunity for the Catholic members of our community to participate.

"But we didn't ever want to see this overturning of the traditions of the RUC," he said.

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